Let’s have some fun, shall we?
Sports are supposed to be fun. Ever since the calendar turned to March, things have been Not Fun for Marquette basketball fans, so we’re going to change that up right here and now. Plus, it’s the offseason, and we’ve got to get to August somehow, right?
THE MARKUS HOWARD 30 POINT GAME TOURNAMENT
It’s a very simple concept. Marquette guard Markus Howard is a fireball of a scoring machine. He’s had seventeen 30+ point games in his three season collegiate career, which is nearly the exact perfect number of games to have a fun bracket tournament to decide which of his 30+ point games was actually the best one.
We’ve sorted and seeded his 30+ point games in order by point total. The 53 point game against Creighton this past season? #1 seed. His 30 point game against St. John’s in the Big East tournament this past season? #17 seed. We made some tiebreakers along the way to decide between a few of the seeds. For example: Howard has had three 33 point games. The first tiebreaker was whether Marquette won or lost the game, with a win getting a better seed. Next was turnovers, with the game with the fewer turnovers getting the better seed. After all, we’re trying to figure out which scoring game was his best one, and turning the ball over is not helpful to scoring a lot of points. In one case, we had to go to another tiebreaker, and we went with assists there. Yes, it’s not a scoring thing, per se, but it helps define what was a better game for Howard overall more than anything else we could have possibly used.
Last week, the #3 seed roared through the #6 seed to advance to the semifinals. This week, we find out which game lands against it in the next round.
Ready? Let’s see the matchup!
#2 SEED: 52 points at Providence Friars on January 3, 2018
Full Markus Howard Statline: 44 minutes, 52 points on 17-for-29 shooting (6-for-10 on twos, 11-for-19 on threes), 7-for-7 on free throws, one rebound, two assists, two turnovers, two steals.
The first 50 point game in Marquette history. That’s a pretty big deal, and that’s without even getting into the fact that it tied Marshon Brooks’ Big East record for points in a game. Yes, yes, it took five extra minutes of overtime to get there, and Howard threw in 10 of his 52 in the extra session. He ended regulation two points shy of what used to be the regulation scoring record at the time.
Perhaps more importantly than Howard scoring 52 was the fact that Marquette absolutely needed him to score all of those 52 to win. Here’s two paragraphs of what Pistol Brad wrote about the game at the time:
The way that Howard put the team on his back down the stretch you would have never guessed that he started the game 2/8 and there was talk of his shooting slump continuing. Howard put that talk to rest with a personal 8-0 run to start the second half to give your Marquette Golden Eagles a 7 point lead. However, like the rest of the leads held by either team throughout the game, it didn’t last for very long. Providence cut the lead back down to 1 with 15 minutes remaining in the game on an Alpha Diallo layup. From there the score ping-ponged back and forth with Marquette eventually taking their largest lead of the game with 7:32 left on another Howard three that stretched the Marquette lead to 8. However, the Friars, much like their creepy mascot, didn’t go away. Marquette went on a four minute scoring drought from 6:28 to 2:11 in which Providence took a 6 point lead and I nearly threw my phone into my television.
Markus Howard seemed to sense my pain and decided to score 10 points over the final 2:11 including a banked in three and an and-1 with 28 seconds left to tie the game. The following Providence possession ended with Greg Elliott knocking the ball off Kyron Cartright’s leg and returning the ball to Marquette with 4.8 seconds on the game clock, but Andrew Rowsey left the potentially game winning three just short and the game went into OT. After a heart attack inducing regulation, Marquette started overtime with another Howard three, giving him 45 points and at the time and officially pushing him past the previous Marquette record of 44 by both Tony Smith and Mike Moran. Howard finished overtime with 10 points in the extra period, giving him the aforementioned single game record 52 points on the night and ensure that the Golden Eagles would be able to remember the night on a positive note.
Howard finished the game on a 15-for-21 shooting spree. My goodness. 10 points in the final 2:11 and 10 points in overtime means that Howard knocked in 20 of his 52 in the final 7:11 of the game as Marquette won by just five points. That’s amazing.
In terms of context, Marquette kind of really needed to win this game, as they had started Big East play 1-1 with a narrow home loss to Xavier in there. They had already dropped a home date with Georgia, and at the time, Marquette was in need of victories that would point them towards the NCAA tournament. They got one here even if the next two months would end up without enough wins to get them there.
#7 Seed: 37 points at #3 Villanova Wildcats on January 6, 2018
Result: Marquette lost, 100-90
Full Markus Howard Statline: 38 minutes, 37 points on 13-for-27 shooting (8-for-14 on twos, 5-for-13 on threes), 6-for-6 on free throws, four rebounds, eight assists, two turnovers, one steal
Howard shot twice as many shots in the second half as he did in the first, and he ended up with more than twice as many points. Wild how that works. He had 26 of his 37 points after the break, and while he was pretty good, Marquette didn’t keep this game interesting because of him. If you go back through the play-by-play, the big shots that pulled Marquette closer and closer after being down 15 early in the second half just kept on not being from Howard.
Obviously, the rest of the team doesn’t get into positions to hit those big shots without the Arizona native clearing the deck a bit, but we really can’t point to a big run from here that helped the Golden Eagles rally. The best we can do is a pair of free throws that cut it to a seven point game with just barely under a minute left to go and an and-1 shortly thereafter that answered two Phill booth free throws and trimmed the lead to just six with 50 seconds left to go. The game wasn’t completely out of the question at that point, and while it mostly wasn’t Howard all game long to hit the big turning point shots, MU was still on the verge of knocking off the Wildcats without his explosion.
Which performance by Markus Howard was better? Cast your vote! Polling will stay open until Friday at midnight CT, so tell your friends to vote, too!